Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In Search of Good Food

Cooking and finding foods to eat that avoid food allergies can be a burdensome task. Studying labels, substituting ingredients, wrestling over whether to buy something “made on shared equipment with” versus “made in a facility that also processes” x, y, or z become the norm in day-to-day living.

As a parent of an allergic child, I have done a fair amount of searching for flavorful, healthy foods the entire family can enjoy and yet are safe for my allergic daughter to eat. For us, it's important that our daughter feel free to eat anything at the table along with the rest of the family rather than be continually reminded of her allergies with separate, specially prepared "safe" dishes. Aside from wanting her to feel like a regular member of the family, this is really the most practical solution for mealtimes. (Of course this doesn't mean we don't have some "unsafe" foods now and then, but we try to keep those times to a minimum.)

I was disappointed when my initial foray into the food allergy world led me to specialized cookbooks or websites with recipes involving substitutions that didn’t really appeal to me. I didn’t want to make pasta alfredo using some sort of floury, cornstarchy mixture to simulate creamy alfredo sauce. Nor did I feel like mixing up some concoction to mimic eggs in my baked goods. I decided that as much as reasonably possible, I wanted to eat food as it was originally intended to be eaten, not merely a weak imitation of the real version. For me, this meant steering clear of any foods intended to resemble cheesy pasta dishes or desserts where eggs were a must. I wanted more ‘normal’ recipes any non-allergic person might make that also happened to not have the foods I was trying to avoid. I started doing a lot of searches on recipe sites and cookbooks, cherry-picking those recipes that did not include any offending ingredients or where simple substitutions could be made without grossly altering the final result of the dish (for example, I will routinely substitute olive or vegetable oil when butter is called for or soy milk in place of cow’s milk). As I started to find several recipes that fit the bill, the burden of procuring and preparing food around food allergies eased a bit. Even celebrity chef recipes were not off limits!

Aside from recipes, I am also continuously on the lookout for new food items in grocery stores that are safe or have safe ingredients. An unexpected benefit of living with food allergies has been discovering foods that we may never have tried and now enjoy had we not had food allergies to deal with. I am also happy to find that in today’s more allergy-conscious world, there seems to be a growing number of products that are allergen-free.

I’m always excited to discover these new recipes and foods for my family to try and hope others who face similar food allergy challenges would benefit from this information and be able to add to their own food repertoires. I will be recording my recipe and food finds here as well as other general thoughts and information about living with food allergies. The recipes and foods recorded here will all be dairy, nut, and egg-free, however, since I routinely come across those that also happen to be gluten-free or vegan, I will try to note those as well when applicable.

Here’s to a less burdensome, more enjoyable eating experience!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for this site...i will be following your site, these are the same allergies that we have...we started with not peanuts/tree nuts, then it was no eggs and now it is no dairy...we aren't vegan and do eat meat, so i will look for how you gracefully balance this lifestyle (without dairy) that we now will!

julie in michigan
(3 kids)